What Pongal is to Tamil Nadu, Lohri to Punjab, Bihu or Magh Bihu is to Assam, Makar Sankranti is the same occasion to Odisha.
The agrarian festival is celebrated on January 14 (January 15 in case of a leap year) every year with lots of pomp and gaiety across the State.
The festival marks the first day of Sun’s transition into Makara Rashi (Capricorn). It also marks the end of the winter and start of longer days.
Though it is mainly a festival associated with harvest, many traditions are associated with it in Odisha. On this day of the festival, since the transition of Sun takes place, people worship the Sun God for the wellbeing of them and their family members.
People in large number gather at Konark in Puri district to offer puja to the Sun God.
The portmanteau of Konark is ‘Kona’, which means corner in English and ‘Ark’ meaning ‘Sun'. The place assumes importance as there is temple dedicated to the Sun God, which is known all over the world for its architectural marvels. The temple’s design is like the chariot of the Sun God with 24 wheels, driven by seven horses.
A widely believed theory is that if the Sun God is worshipped on Makara Sankranti, the God accepts the prayers and saves His devotees from all problems. On this occasion, devotees take a holy dip in Chandrabhaga Sea and offer prayers to the Sun God.
The festival is also celebrated in a grand way at the Jagannath Tempel in Puri, at Hatakeshwar temple at Atri in Khordha district, Dhabaleswar Temple in Cuttack and Makara Muni temple in Balasore.
As all the festivals observed in Odisha are incomplete without sweets and mouth-watering delicacies, so is the Makara festival. On this festival, a traditional dish is prepared with ‘makara chaula’ or newly harvested rice.
Another tradition associated with this festival is to fly kites of different shapes, sizes and colours.
Due to the prevailing pandemic situation, the festival has been a low key affair, with no mass gathering at Chandrabhaga sea beach for holy dip and at other temples.